Friday Dystopian Reads: Living with The Trumpist Regime PandemicPosted: March 20, 2020
Good Day Sky Dancers!
How’s the Social Distancing going for those of you that aren’t introverts? Frankly, social distancing is what I call my time away from work and it’s known as peace and quiet finally!!! The worst things right now for me are watching these endless pressers where Trump lies and then every one steps back and clarifies what delusional things he’s announced that simply aren’t true or are terribly distorted. Oh, then Pence does his sycophantic thing.
Fortunately, I’m a remote worker these days and I’m used to the isolation and I have money deposited in my bank. I’m listening to so many of my friends tell me their tales of sudden and unexpected furloughs and unemployment. One set of my friends have had to close their restaurant. Some are relying on take out and delivery but this will be very very brutal for this city. This city will be hit hard on many levels. My heart is with every one going through this that could lose everything and I truly hope we can get the Federal government to help us survive until we can begin to find a new normal together.
I watched a small flock of birds migrating north this morning while walking Temple. Taxes may be postponed but all other forms of life on the planet continue. It’s made me think about the term “nonessential” because it seems that’s what a lot of our jobs, travel, and shopping really are.
We can accept the Trumpist Regime postponing the Federal Tax Date but, as Jon Meacham writes in the NYT times this morning “We Can’t Let Coronavirus Postpone Elections. Even in war, America has kept up its democratic traditions. We can’t stop now.” Getting rid of this inept, crooked, and lying set of Trumpists is our most essential duty this year.
History is on the side of proceeding in times of uncertainty. There’s something in the American character that has long insisted on pressing ahead with democracy’s fundamental task: the casting of ballots and the choosing of leaders. In addition to the Lincoln example, historians know that James Madison was re-elected amid the War of 1812; the midterm elections of 1814 took place not long after the British had invaded Washington; the 1918 balloting occurred despite the ravages of the Spanish flu; 1932 went forward in the face of the Great Depression; and Franklin Roosevelt was re-elected in 1944, during World War II. Even 9/11 delayed the New York City mayoral election only by a matter of weeks.
We have world enough and time — and, in several states, the experience — to make the voting in November safe and secure. Colorado offers us perhaps the most promising model. A “vote at home” state (Hawaii, Oregon and Washington have forms of this, too), Colorado mails ballots to all registered voters well in advance of Election Day. Voters can either mail them back or drop them off at central locations at any point in the weeks-long window of time. Most people have chosen this option; think of it as curbside democracy.
There are security issues, of course: ballots could be intercepted and illegally cast by people with access to a person’s mail. There are, however, signature-checking safeguards in place. No system — including the current one — is perfect. But we can’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. This coming Monday, Senators Amy Klobuchar and Ron Wyden are introducing legislation to make mail-in ballots available to every voter in America.
We need to have these kinds of conversations about the election honestly, rationally, and now. The sooner the better, for chaos could lead to a nightmare scenario: the possibility that President Trump might take advantage of the unfolding health crisis to delay the November election.
Adam Sewer–writing for The Atlantic– suggests that “Donald Trump’s Cult of Personality Did This. The autocratic political culture that has propped up the Trump administration has left the nation entirely unprepared for an economic and public-health calamity.”
The president of the United States is a menace to public health.
I don’t mean that I disagree with him on policy, although I do. I don’t mean that I abhor the president’s expressed bigotry toward religious and ethnic minorities, although that is also true. I am not referring to Donald Trump’s efforts to corrupt the Justice Department, shield his criminal associates from legal peril, or funnel taxpayer money to his tacky hotels and golf courses, although all of these things are reason enough to oppose the president.
What I am referring to is the fact that, soon after the coronavirus outbreak emerged in China, the rest of the world began to regard it as a threat to public health, while Trump has seen it as a public-relations problem. Trump’s primary method of dealing with public-relations problems is to exert the full force of the authoritarian cult of personality that surrounds him to deny that a problem even exists. This approach has paid political dividends for the Republican Party, in the form of judicial appointments, tax cuts for the wealthy, and a rapid erosion of the rule of law. But applied to the deadly pandemic now sweeping the planet, all it has done is exacerbate the inevitable public-health crisis, while leaving both the federal government and the entire swath of the country that hangs on his every word unprepared for the catastrophe now unfolding in the United States. The cardinal belief of Trumpism is that loyalty to Trump is loyalty to the country, and that equation leaves no room for the public interest.
Neither the tide of pestilence sweeping the nation nor the economic calamity that will follow was inevitable. They are the predictable outcomes of the president’s authoritarian instincts, his obvious incompetence, and the propaganda apparatus that has shielded him from accountability by ensuring that the public is blinded to his role in the scale of this disaster.
Trump’s first public remarks on the coronavirus came during an interview with the CNBC reporter Joe Kernen on January 22. Kernen asked, “Are there worries about a pandemic at this point?” To which Trump replied, “No. Not at all. And—we’re—we have it totally under control. It’s one person coming in from China, and we have it under control. It’s—going to be just fine.” In February, he falsely declared that “we are very close to a vaccine,” and that “within a couple of days [the number of cases] is going to be down to close to zero.” In early March, he was still urging Americans to ignore the issue, saying, “It will go away. Just stay calm. It will go away.”
One might argue in the president’s defense that panic serves no one. It is important, in fact, that political leaders urge calm in the face of a crisis, even as they prepare for the worst.
Except Trump was not preparing. He was consciously contradicting his administration’s own public-health officials at the time.
Republican senators have been equally self-dealing and venal.
Tia Mitchell / Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Perdue, Loeffler among senators whose stock trading during coronavirus raises questions
The first one caught was Senator Burr.
Greg Sargent provides this analysis in WAPO: “Three big takeaways from the stunning GOP stock-selling revelations”.
Burr’s ‘defense’ actually indicts Trump. One of Burr’s claims in his and Trump’s defense is that it’s unfair to claim daylight between Burr’s private warnings about the coronavirus and Trump’s downplaying of it.
Burr is pointing to a briefing that Trump and administration officials gave in late February, suggesting that this showed that they warned Americans about the need to “begin making plans” for serious inconveniences to come.
But that very same briefing from Trump and his officials actually shows them vastly downplaying the threat and vastly inflating the success of their own efforts.
In it, Trump declared that their strategy was already having “tremendous success, beyond what people thought.” And multiple other officials also hailed the “success” of their containment strategy.
We now know this was the opposite of the truth — the threat was not remotely contained, and the administration’s failures were to blame for it. Burr’s own defense actually shows that the administration was dramatically misleading the public, even as Burr privately warned that the situation was far more dire.
Burr is declining to directly answer questions about the stock sales. But even if you grant that his motives were pure, that cannot expunge the other problem here: that Republicans like him knew in real time that things were surely much worse than Trump was publicly allowing, and likely knew that the administration’s strategy was not remotely matched to the threat.
Here’s an example of the complete ineptitude in all Trumpist activities. The IRS wasn’t aware of the date change for Federal Taxes due.
So, every day we get about two national press opportunities and it becomes an endless and hapless pogrom to confuse all of us. Trump attacks woman reporters asking key questions including suggestions that some of them would be better off dying of the virus. Trump basically announces things no one has heard of in the rest of his administration and confusion ensues. Trump continues to use the race baiting “Chinese virus” trope and refer to pandemic containment efforts as a war. None of these things are remotely comforting, necessary, or useful.
Meanwhile, out in Trumpist La La Land we have headlines like this and the resulting editorial op ed from the Kansas City Star: “Kansas official: Pandemic isn’t a problem here because there are few Chinese people”.
The chairman of the Riley County Commissioners suggested this week that the global coronavirus pandemic is not a problem locally because unlike in Italy, there are not a lot of Chinese people living in central Kansas, according to two other officials who attended the meeting Wednesday night.
Before we go any further, the scientific term for this kind of xenophobic falsehood is bunkum.
Usha Reddi, the mayor of Manhattan, Kansas, went to the meeting hoping that the commissioners would declare an emergency, which they ultimately did. But what she heard from the chairman, Republican Marvin Rodriguez, was this: “I’m paraphrasing, but he said we don’t have a problem here because Italy has a lot of Chinese people, and we don’t have that problem here.”
Reached by phone, Rodriguez told The Star Editorial Board, “I didn’t necessarily say it like that.” So how did he say it? “Italy has a problem with its health department, first. It’s health for everybody. I have a friend in the Navy, and he said in that area” of Northern Italy where that country’s first cases were reported, “there’s a garment industry and a lot of Chinese. If we were like Italy, we’d have it already.”
We do have it already. But, does he understand why it’s dangerous to Asian Americans to talk like that, and that there has been an increase in reported attacks?
“Well, they say it came out of China,” he answered, “and I’m not putting it past the Chinese government in communist China.” Meaning, to export a virus on purpose? “Normally, this kind of thing spreads slowly,” he answered, so “I put two and two together. I’ve been around a long time, girl.”
He also said that his only public policy goal in saying all of this was to try to discourage panic. “We’re hurting a lot of people in Manhattan” by overreacting, he said. “Places are being shut down for no reason at all.”
All of the above not only encourages racist attacks but also encourages the public to ignore the life-saving advice of public health officials to take proper precautions to avoid transmitting the virus.
“This is false information,” Reddi said of Rodriguez’ remarks. “It’s not keeping the community safe. I felt very uncomfortable” hearing his comments about Chinese people.
Ronald Brownstein–writing for The Atlantic— writes: “Red and Blue America Aren’t Experiencing the Same Pandemic. The disconnect is already shaping, even distorting, the nation’s response.”
Even a disease as far-reaching as the coronavirus hasn’t entirely crossed the chasm between red and blue America.
In several key respects, the outbreak’s early stages are unfolding very differently in Republican- and Democratic-leaning parts of the country. That disconnect is already shaping, even distorting, the nation’s response to this unprecedented challenge—and it could determine the pandemic’s ultimate political consequences as well.
A flurry of new national polls released this week reveals that while anxiety about the disease is rising on both sides of the partisan divide, Democrats consistently express much more concern about it than Republicans do, and they are much more likely to say they have changed their personal behavior as a result. A similar gap separates people who live in large metropolitan centers, which have become the foundation of the Democratic electoral coalition, from those who live in the small towns and rural areas that are the modern bedrock of the GOP.
Government responses have followed these same tracks. With a few prominent exceptions, especially Ohio, states with Republican governors have been slower, or less likely, than those run by Democrats to impose restrictions on their residents. Until earlier this week, Donald Trump downplayed the disease’s danger and overstated the extent to which the United States had “control” over it, as the conservative publication The Bulwark recently documented. Conservative media figures including Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity likewise insisted for weeks that the media and Democrats were exaggerating the danger as a means of weakening Trump. Several Republican elected officials encouraged their constituents to visit bars and restaurants precisely when federal public-health officials were urging the opposite.
So, the next thing that’s going on is Trumpist suppression of unemployment figures. Will this actually happen?
I agree with Dr. Paul Krugman on this one: “3 Rules for the Trump Pandemic. One: Don’t trust the president.”
The details of our failure are complex, but they all flow ultimately from Trump’s minimization of the threat: He was asserting that Covid-19 was no worse than the flu just last week (although true to form, he’s now claiming to have known all along that a pandemic was coming).
Why did Trump and his team deny and delay? All the evidence suggests that he didn’t want to do or say anything that might drive down stock prices, which he seems to regard as the key measure of his success. That’s presumably why as late as Feb. 25 Larry Kudlow, the administration’s chief economist, declared that the U.S. had “contained” the coronavirus, and that the economy was “holding up nicely.”
Well, that was a bad bet. Since then, the stock market has more or less given up all its gains under the Trump presidency. More important, the economy is clearly in free-fall. So what should we do now?
I’ll leave health policy to the experts. On economic policy, I’d suggest three principles. First, focus on hardship, not G.D.P. Second, stop worrying about incentives to work. Third, don’t trust Trump.
Any one who trusts this President and believes what he says is a major rube and they’re exactly why we’re in this position.
So, my friend and fellow blogger @Adrastosno has given me a huge ear wig this week and I will share it with you.
The title refers to an inscription written by diminutive American actor Michael J. Pollard in Jim Capaldi’s notebook while they were both in Morocco. Capaldi and Pollard were planning to work on a movie that was never filmed. Capaldi said:
Pollard and I would sit around writing lyrics all day, talking about Bob Dylan and the Band, thinking up ridiculous plots for the movie. Before I left Morocco, Pollard wrote in my book ‘The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys.’ For me, it summed him up. He had this tremendous rebel attitude. He walked around in his cowboy boots, his leather jacket. At the time he was a heavy little dude. It seemed to sum up all the people of that generation who were just rebels. The ‘Low Spark,’ for me, was the spirit, high-spirited. You know, standing on a street corner. The low rider. The ‘Low Spark’ meaning that strong undercurrent at the street level.
I cannot tell you how many hours I spent at the piano trying to learn how to riff via this song. And, it’s only this month I realized what the composer/lyricists actually meant. So, maybe we need to keep our low sparks going and get ready to amp them up in November. Remember, the birds are already heading to where they want to be this summer. I’m sure to see that same flock pass over me by fall.
What’s on you reading and blogging list today?